Woodturner Darren Appiagyei is displaying his work in the Sackler courtyard garden as part of London Craft Week from 4-10 October. We spoke with Darren to find out more about his work, which celebrates the natural textures and imperfections of raw wood:
Being born and bred in Greenwich, from a young age I was surrounded by nature and was fortunate enough to have Greenwich Park on my doorstep. I had a fondness for the variation of textures on every tree, which is something I still hold dear to this day. Hindsight is a beautiful thing as nature was inspiring me without my knowledge, and this lead to embracing the intrinsic beauty of wood while studying 3D design at Camberwell College of the Arts. It was an organic process working with wood, in my second year of the course we had to learn a new skill.
The aim was to get my work done as soon as possible to focus on my other passion, table tennis. The lathe was free and hardly used and I saw it as an opportunity to get my work done as soon as possible in order to play table tennis. In the process I fell in love with woodturning. I found it quite therapeutic as I carved into woods and the grains revealed themselves to me. My passion grew as I taught myself how to woodturn through YouTube and learned about a variety of woods. Honoring the wood was always a key part to my practice and embracing the intrinsic beauty of the wood. It was always about being patient with the material from day one and understanding the properties of the woods.
I source my woods from a farm in Shooters Hill called Woodlands Farm, they have a huge pile of wood in the farm with tree surgeons dumping woods which have naturally fallen. I forage through the wood pile, it’s almost an organic process and whatever catches my attention, whether it be the grain or texture I decide in the moment to take and explore the material.
I work with a variety of woods from oak to London plane, and it’s very much an ongoing process understanding the character and the density of the wood. I am always looking to develop my knowledge on different woods, and educating myself about the woods in my local area.
I do the majority of my carving on a Union Graduate lathe, and my method of making is an organic process; when carving into woods using gouges and chisels, my creative process is dictated by the wood and the details that are revealed such as grain and textures. Trial and error is key to success, with every wood that I work with it’s almost like a blank canvas. It’s about allowing the wood to speak for itself and embracing it’s innate beauty.
Ghanaian sculptures also heavily inspire me, the textures and rawness of which were ever present growing up in a Ghanaian household. The boldness of the material spoke to me, the maker’s marks and distinctive nature are an inspiration when carving into wood.
The pieces I created for London Craft Week all have one thing in common, which is texture and the exploration of bark and burrs. The layering of wood is a constant theme, with the courtyard garden an indication of the origins of the material. My pieces of work are concealed around the backdrop of the garden with the aim for the the viewer to explore, observe and discover my work just like in nature, in a woodland when you just come across intriguing trees full of life.
Nature is a big reference of inspiration for me, it’s the little things we take for granted that amuse me like the bark on a tree and the variation in textures on pavement. Inspiration is all around us, it’s about being open to it and being present. I believe nature has a way of vandalizing what has been manufactured, it’s like a flower that grows through concrete pavement, it shouldn’t be there, but it is with its overpowering beauty which shines so bright, a juxtaposition almost.